Monday, April 25, 2016

South Jersey Mayor's abrupt resignation appears to have been a result of four employees having filed complaints against him.

When the March 15, 2016 South Jersey Times reported that Judson Moore, Jr. resigned his position as Commercial Township (Cumberland County) Mayor because he was "too busy in life" and wanted "to move on to other things," Libertarians for Transparent Government, a NJ nonprofit corporation (LFTG) submitted an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request to find out if there was more to the story.

Among the records received today in response to the request was Township Solicitor Thomas E. Seeley's February 26, 2016 letter that advised Moore that "four different township employees" had filed complaints that were "directed towards" Moore and which were discussed at a special meeting held by the Township Committee on February 25, 2016.  While Township officials declined to provide LFTG access to the employees' complaints, they did provide a blank "Harassment Report Form" that was used by at least one employee.

Seeley's letter informed Moore that the Township Committee directed Seeley to "follow up on these complaints with an investigation" and that he (Seeley) would interview the alleged victims and then meet with Moore to hear his response.  Finally, Seeley's letter mentioned Moore's promise to not contact any of the complainants or enter the Township Building until the investigation was completed.

In her March 9, 2016 letter, Township Clerk Hannah E. Nichols advised Moore of another meeting to be held on March 11, 2016 "to address the complaints filed against you."  Moore's one-sentence resignation e-mail was sent to Seeley on March 12, 2016.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Public defender charged with using father-in-law's social security number to get credit cards.

On January 22, 2016, the New Jersey Office of Attorney Ethics filed ethics charges against a lawyer employed with the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender for using his father-in-law's social security number in 2006, without his knowledge or consent, to obtain two credit cards.  The lawyer, while admitting to most of the charges, maintained that his ex-wife and her matrimonial lawyer used the incident as "pay-back" for prevailing against them in a contested alimony matter.

The ethics complaint alleges that Raphael J. Glinbizzi, who was married at the time to Joann Glinbizzi, used the social number of Joann's now deceased father, Emidio Lonero, to obtain a Chase credit card and an American Express Blue credit card in 2006.  In 2008, Lonero and his wife learned that a $30,000 balance had been rung up on the cards and demanded that Glinbizzi pay off the debt.  Glinbizzi reportedly paid off the cards, mainly with a loan from his parent.

In his answer to the complaint (available at the link above), Glinbizzi expressed remorse at having committed what he characterized as a single aberrational act in an otherwise unblemished career spanning thirty-three years.  He then set forth details of his financial pressures that led him to take out the two credit cards and the personal depression that resulted from the "constant belittling" from his wife Joann and her parents about his "meager" employment.

He also accused his wife Joann's lawyer, Joseph Deming, of filing the grievance to "obtain his pay-back for prevailing against him before Judge Sivilli" in a contested matter over Glinbizzi's alimony obligations to Joann.  Glinbizzi also said that Deming attempted to use the credit card incident "to blackmail or coerce [him] into surrendering [his] claim on" the alimony issue.

Glinbizzi claimed that Deming's filing of the grievance had nothing to do with "duty to the profession or to right some wrong that still exists, but it was to get back at [him] for" so aggressively litigating the alimony issue.  As for his wife Joann, Glinbizzi said that "[s]he would be most pleased at taking me down professionally and personally at this time."

Anyone who is interested in being notified in advance of any hearings on this matter may complete and send a hearing request form to the Office of Attorney Ethics in care of Barbara Cristofaro via fax to 609-530-5238.  Since 1995, attorney disciplinary hearings have been open to the public.

Police say that only victims can report crimes. No reports taken from those who learn about possible crimes through records requests.

Update 04/21/16:  I received a voicemail from the Manchester Police which I've transcribed here:

Hey Mr. Paff, Captain [Todd M.] Malland from the Manchester Township Police.  I'm calling back on behalf of chief Parker regarding this letter you sent on Monday the 18th. I apologize for taking a couple days get back to you but I had to do some research myself. 
It is customary for what the dispatcher said that we wouldn't generally take a third party especially in this kind of  matter if you're not directly related to what's going on although you did it a noble thing by letting us know. 
 I called the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office of Financial crimes unit, they're aware of it and it has - whatever direction at the State -- it's being handled at the Attorney General's office. The Attorney General's office is handling any potential criminal proceedings in this and that's basically the way the hierarchy works.

You know we has municipal officers are under the control and authority of the county and then the county is obviously under the control or authority of the state. So we can't supersede them at the municipal level and we won't.
So at some point if the county prosecutor's office got involved, and they were told by the Attorney General's office that they would be handling it and to kind of cease and desist and they were to be investigating it.
There is some kind of investigation going on but it's at the state level.
So, I appreciate the call.  If you have any further questions you are welcome to call me back.  
-----original blog post

I wrote the following letter today to Manchester Township (Ocean County) Police Chief Lisa D. Parker after I was told that I couldn't report a possible third-degree theft charge because I was not the victim of the theft.  I'll update this blog with the Chief's response, if I receive one.

------------------------------

April 18, 2016

Chief Lisa D. Parker'
Manchester Township Police Department
1 Colonial Drive
Manchester, NJ 08759-3898
Via Fax only to 732-657-2764

I have a question about a report of possible third degree theft charges I made to Dispatcher No. 522 by way of a telephone call I placed to the Department's non-emergency number, 732-657-6111, at 11:31 this morning.  This dispatcher, who was very professional and cordial, advised me that unless I was a victim of the alleged theft offenses, he could not take a report from me.  He told me that my status as a third-party was not sufficient to initiate an investigation into this matter.

By way of background, I blog on issues that I feel are of public concern.  On April 13, 2016, I wrote an article entitled "Prominent Ocean County lawyer charged with misappropriating client funds" that concerned a formal ethics complaint alleging that a lawyer who maintains an office in Manchester Township at 2915 Ridgeway Road willfully misappropriated client funds.

The article contains a link to that complaint.  Paragraph 64 of that complaint claims that on May 2, 2011, the lawyer withdrew $14,822 from a now-deceased client's PNC Bank account and on November 9, 2011 he withdrew $20,000 from the same account and in both cases deposited those funds into his personal account.

These allegations, if true, would constitute third degree theft charges as defined by Title 2C Chapter 20 of the New Jersey Statutes.  And, since N.J.S.A. 2C:1-6 provides for a five year statute of limitations for prosecuting these offenses, the deadline for filing charges, if such charges are warranted, is rapidly approaching.

I do not know whether or not the Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE), the agency that brought the ethics charges against this lawyer, referred the matter to any law enforcement officials.  In case the OAE did not make the referral, I felt that I should initiate one on my own, which is why I called your Department this morning.

Your dispatcher's decision to not take my report seems wrong to me.  I would think that your Department would want citizens to come forward with information concerning crimes that may have occurred within its jurisdiction regardless of how they came to be informed of the unlawful acts.  The fact that your departmental website contains a confidential "tip line" suggests that your Department encourages all people--victims and non-victims alike--to report possible violations of the law.

Would you please let me know whether the information your dispatcher imparted to me accurately reflects Departmental policy?

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Very truly yours,

John Paff

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Prominent Ocean County lawyer charged with misappropriating client funds

The managing partner of a Manchester based law firm that specializes in Elder Law has been accused by the Office of Attorney Ethics, the New Jersey Supreme Court's disciplinary agency, of overcharging two of his clients and misappropriating funds from their accounts over which he had control.

The attorney, Robert C. Novy, of Novy & Associates, was accused in a formal complaint of improperly taking $117,000 from the estate of one of his clients during 2012 and 2013 for "Power of Attorney Services" and for withdrawing $34,822 from the client's bank account and depositing those funds into his personal account.  In another matter, he was accused of diverting $240,000 into his attorney trust account when those funds were supposed to be deposited with a corporate trustee.

Novy, through Morristown attorney Graham Curtin, answered the ethics charges on March 10, 2016.  In his answer, Novy claimed that all his actions were done to advance his clients' interests, that he did not violate the Rules of Professional Conduct and that he acted under his clients' instructions at all times.

The charges are only allegations--nothing has yet been proven.  Novy has demanded a hearing and the burden is on ethics authorities to prove that Novy violated the Rules of Professional Conduct by clear and convincing evidence.

Anyone who is interested in being notified in advance of any hearings on this matter may complete and send a hearing request form to the Office of Attorney Ethics in care of Barbara Cristofaro via fax to 609-530-5238.  Since 1995, attorney disciplinary hearings have been open to the public.

Bridgeton faces another police excessive force lawsuit. Fire Dept also facing discrimination suit.

On April 7, 2016, a local woman filed a federal lawsuit claiming that police in Bridgeton (Cumberland County) applied excessive force against her.  And, on August 13, 2015, a former EMT filed suit because of discrimination based on his perceived sexual orientation.

Jacqueline Love-Skinner v. City of Bridgeton, Federal District Court Case No. 1:16-cv-01937.

In her suit, Jacqueline Love-Skinner claimed that on May 5, 2015, she was visiting the Amity Heights Apartment Complex when she got into a verbal exchange with Lenora Adams after Adams had called her "a drunken bitch."  When officers Ronald Broomall and James Riley came to the scene, Broomall allegedly struck Love-Skinner in the back of the head causing her to fall to the ground.  The fall allegedly caused her to scar her face and break her ankle.  Broomall then "dragged her to the curb, sprayed her with mace and stood on her broken ankle" according to the lawsuit. Love-Skinner claimed that she was charged with Disorderly Conduct but that the charge was later dismissed. Riley is alleged to have not intervened in Broomall's treatment of Love-Skinner.

Donald Hymer v. City of Bridgeton, et al, Docket No. CUM-L-570-15

In his suit, Donald Hymer, who claims to have been unlawfully fired from his part-time Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) position on May 29, 2015, was discriminated against "because of his perceived sexual orientation."  He said that he was passed over for a permanent EMT job even though he had more seniority than any of the other interviewees.  

When he attended a March 3, 2015 interview for a full-time EMT position, Hymer said that he was ridiculed by his supervisor Tiffany Durham, who heads the EMT unit for the Bridgeton Fire Department.  According to the complaint, Durham said to him, in the presence of the Bridgeton Fire Chief and other officers, "You need to watch who you hang out with! I saw pictures of you and [male friend] spooning on Facebook!"  Durham's quip allegedly caused the other interviewers "to laugh loudly at Mr. Hymer."

Hymer claimed to have been routinely called "faggot" and subjected to being mocked on social media by his coworkers.  He said that his schedule was changed to prevent him from working any more shifts and was placed on the "do not call" list.

Lawyer cited by ethics authorities for throwing hissy-fit at court offices.

On February 23, 2016, the District IIIB Ethics Committee filed a formal ethics complaint against an Atlantic County lawyer who allegedly threw a tantrum when court staff at the county courthouse wouldn't accept his landlord-tenant case paperwork for filing.

According to the complaint, lawyer Jonathan Diego, who is listed in the complaint as having an office in Linwood, engaged in a "heated argument" on April 25, 2014 when he tried to file papers at the Atlantic County courthouse in Atlantic City.  According to the complaint, Diego "demanded to speak to a supervisor" and tried to intimidate the clerk by making reference to "his standing as an attorney and his relationship to Superior Court Judge [Julio L.] Mendez."

Diego allegedly said that "I'm tired of this racist ghetto BS" and his conduct caused one witness to reportedly say that he "was acting as if he were on steroids."

The complaint charges Diego with failure to "treat with courtesy and consideration all persons involved in the legal process" and for uttering a racially and socioeconomically divisive comment.

The charges are only allegations--nothing has yet been proven--and Diego, whose answer is not yet due, has an opportunity to contest the charge and have the matter heard by an ethics panel.  According to an April 11, 2016 e-mail from the District IIIB Ethics Committee, Diego had not yet filed a response to the complaint.

Diego has been invited to provide a copy of his answer and a link to it will be posted here if and when it is received.

Anyone who is interested in being notified in advance of any hearings on this matter may complete and send a hearing request form to District IIIB Ethics Committee in care of Cynthia Earl, Esq. via fax to 856-642-7471.  Since 1995, attorney disciplinary hearings have been open to the public.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Bridgeton cop sues for reinstatement after acquittal for steroid sale.

On March 11, 2016, a Bridgeton (Cumberland County) police officer sued the City demanding to be reinstated to his position after a jury found him not guilty of selling steroids to another officer.

In his complaint and summary judgment motion, Officer Robert W. Smith said that the charges were brought against him for "malicious and retaliatory" reasons.  He noted that his arrest came one month after Chief Mark Ott was "red faced and yelling" in anger after learning that Smith had an unnamed Bridgeton City Councilman's car towed and issued the Councilman a ticket for having an unregistered vehicle.

Smith was charged with the drug offense in January 2012 and was acquitted in January 2016.

Smith also claimed that his main accuser, Officer William Deininger testified at trial that he "admitted that he lied on his application for employment with the Bridgeton Police Department, claiming that he lived in Bridgeton when in fact he lived in Hammonton."  Smith further alleged that Deininger testified that "Chief Ott told him to do this so that he would comply with the residency requirement necessary for employment."

Cherry Hill lawyer in hot water for allegedly failing to appear at client's sentencing.

On March 21, 2016, the District IIIA Ethics Committee, a part of the New Jersey Judiciary's attorney disciplinary system, filed a formal complaint against a Cherry Hill attorney who allegedly failed to appear at three of his client's sentencing proceedings.

The complaint alleges that Mark A. Bernstein failed to appear at his client Justin Medal's January 13, 2012; January 20, 2012 and February 3, 2012 sentencing proceedings.   The complaint also accuses Bernstein of not properly communicating with Medal, not advising him of his fee in writing and failing "to ensure that his secretary's conduct would be compatible with his professional obligations."

The charges are only allegations--nothing has yet been proven and Bernstein, whose answer is not yet due, has an opportunity to contest the charge and have the matter heard by an ethics panel.  Bernstein has been invited to provide a copy of his answer and a link to it will be posted here if and when it is received.

Anyone who is interested in being notified in advance of any hearings on this matter may complete and send a hearing request form to District IIIA Ethics Committee Steven Secare via fax to 732-349-9293.  Since 1995, attorney disciplinary hearings have been open to the public.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Female pump jockey at New Egypt Wawa sued for defamation.

In a February 11, 2016 lawsuit, an Allentown man is suing a female gas station attendant for falsely accusing him of grabbing her breast while she was working at the Wawa convenience store on County Road 539 in Plumsted Township in Ocean County.

According to his lawsuit, David Perlman said that while he was purchasing gas on February 7, 2015, he "had a brief conversation" with Diana Moore who was the gas pump attendant.  He claimed that Moore falsely "made allegations of criminal sexual contact" to the Plumsted Township Police.  The Police allegedly charged Perlman and held him under $2,500 bail without having asked to see Wawa's surveillance video.  According to the lawsuit, the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office downgraded the sexual contact charge to harassment which was ultimately dismissed when Moore failed to appear for court hearings.

Perlman's lawsuit says that the Plumsted Police failed to properly investigate Moore's claim and that Moore defamed him by making a false statement to police.  He said that the charge and the Police Department's decision to post it on its Facebook page, caused him to lose "the opportunity to do business with various entities."

At the time of this writing, neither Plumsted nor Moore has filed an answer to Perlman's lawsuit.